Guest Post #10; Dreaming Of Another World

Welcome to another guest post for my feature Dreaming of Another World. This feature was inspired by a post I wrote here a few months back, where I considered whether another world was possible and could just be glimpsed when lockdown forced us to stay still. I was interested in how other creatives reacted to lockdown and the changes it pushed upon us and opened up my blog to their responses and experiences. I’ve had a great response and here is guest post no.10 from fantasy author Rick Haynes, where he reminisces about leaving the house for the first time after a prolonged spell of isolation.

A TRIP INTO THE UNKNOWN by Rick Haynes

My wife and I thought hard. Due to the impact of Covid-19, we had spent many months cooped up in our nice comfortable prison, but dare we venture outside? But the rays from the sky were sending warmth, giving the prospect of new life to old bones. And after much discussion about the safety aspects, we agreed to depart our sanctuary. For an hour or so, we would take our first trip back to reality, whatever that was.

Now for the checklist. Face masks? Check. Sanitiser? Check. Gloves? Check, but did we need gloves? Medical kit? Check. Blanket? Check. Jackets? In case we felt cold, check.

Taking a drive through the roads of our virus-ridden country was never on any previous menu, but times change for boredom had been our permanent friend for months.

Twenty minutes later we arrived at our destination. The car park at the local garden centre was more than half full, but – in for a penny – as the saying goes. Yet, we hesitated. I could see my wife shaking as we approached the doors of no return.

Inside, the carefully designed twisty routes – to make you see, and hopefully buy, more of the things you don’t want – are like a one-way street. Once in, you cannot reverse and have to travel forward.

With her hand firmly in mine and a nod of her head, we adjusted our masks of fear and entered a world of all things gardening. Much to our surprise, the visitors were few. Wondering about the car numbers in the parking area was over in a flash. Maybe this visit would be less hazardous than we thought?

We placed one foot in front of the other and began the long walk along the meandering trail, eventually emerging into bright sunlight. We inhaled deeply as a world of fragrance, freshness, and clean air instantly hit us. It was good to feel the heat, even better to view the rows and rows of plants and take in the intoxicating scent from the multitude of flowers. With large smiles on our faces, this was our first step into the future but a giant step towards normality.

Our good neighbours – shielding like us – had visited the centre in the last week and advised us to try the coffee shop. They said it was run with military precision, big spaces between seats – inside and out – and you order from the table. Everything was sanitised. Visitors only leave their table to pay and that is to a lass sitting behind a large screen. It worked. We enjoyed our coffee as we felt safe.

And when we left the café behind us, it wasn’t time to go home, as the number of visitors had declined, the walkways almost empty now. My mind wandered back to the decision to shake our fists at the virus, and, without thinking, I was grinning like an idiot.

My wife was looking at the vast array of small shrubs on display. With some being heavily reduced, she thought about buying two small Hebes, one purple and one pinky red. They would do nicely in our new garden, she said. Covered in bees could be the clincher but when the rare Humming Bird Hawk Moth arrived, it was game set and match. The moniker for that stunning moth is long and for that reason, we have always called them, Mobys. Rare in England? Yes, but we have seen many in Greece.

With my wife entranced, I wandered lonely, as if? This garden centre had an aquarium and I sauntered over. It was lovely to see so many highly coloured fish behind glass but I’d rather see them in a large pond. With that in mind, I saw a massive tank to the rear of the aquarium. I climbed the few steps and peered into the murky waters.

At first, I saw little in the gloom. A flash, the tail smacked the water and, like a great magician, the fish vanished. I stared until my eyes were bulging but could see nothing for the tank was murky and at least eight or nine feet deep. The far side was a mystery as I could barely see it.

I turned to go, heard a slap of a tail once more, and felt water hitting my shoulders. I peered into the deep, and like the greatest aqua performers, the Koi Carp made an impressive arrival. With shades of black and hues of gold, orange, and red, the large fish shoaled around the area nearest to me, their eyes seeking something. Eventually, my brain engaged and I realised the fish were awaiting food. Alas, I didn’t have any but the stones at the bottom of the steps looked promising. The first one I lifted was swarming with woodlice. Grabbing a handful, I lowered my hand into the water, released the insects and the fun started. Koi madness took over as the water erupted with fish jumping high, slapping the water with their tails, and lunging into each other. The picture of demons from the deep sucking me under came into my head, but I couldn’t stop now, even though my shirt was damp. I picked up more woodlice and two large spiders and returned to their feeding spot.

The water was unmoving; the fish had vanished. I could see nothing through the murk, not a flash of colour, nor a fin breaking the water.

With my hand full of fishy treats, I slowly opened my palm. And as I began to ease it from the water a huge mouth appeared. It touched my fingers, sucked hard, and gently pulled. Without thinking, instinct took over. I pulled back, and the toothless grin of the largest Koi Carp I had ever seen emerged from the dark waters. 

My panic quickly turned to stupidity and then to rational thought. The remaining insects were learning how to swim for their lives, and the black and red giant monster sucked them up quicker than our carpet cleaner could. Within a minute all was once more serene in the tank of amazement.

Sitting on the lowest step leading up to the massive tank, I sat and pondered. Why did such a huge fish like that hide and then propel its self forward to take a meal from my hand? It couldn’t be that hungry, could it? In my world, fish either bite you or leave you alone, not try and suck you to death. Nevertheless, I checked all my fingers for any bites, sighed with relief, and knew it was time to go. I pulled myself slowly upright and waved to my wife some distance away. Within seconds, I slammed on the brakes for my eyes had homed in on a small and faded notice.

Feed the fish here. Only £1 a bag.

Stupid? I felt like a man with no brain as I walked away.

“I’ve been looking for you, love. Where have you been?”

All I could manage was the grin of a brainless idiot.

A huge thank you to Rick for sharing this post with us! If you would like to find out more about Rick and his books his author bio and links are below.

AUTHOR BIO

My passion is epic fantasy and my first two novels, Evil Never Dies and Heroes Never Fade, have received excellent reviews. As one reviewer posted – ‘Fans of Games of Thrones must read this book!’

My new novel, Outcast, a tale of love, betrayal and giants, has recently been published.

I also write short stories. Several have been published in Scribble, the Portsmouth News and The Chania Post.

I love writing.Rick Haynes
www.rickhaynesauthor.com

Guest Post #9 Dreaming Of Another World

Dreaming of another world is a new feature on my blog where I welcome fellow writers or bloggers to talk about their experiences of Covid 19 and lockdown. I wondered whether other creatives felt like me – that another world was possible and could just be glimpsed once we were forced to stay still. I’ve had a great response and each week I will be publishing a post written by a guest -sharing their thoughts, feelings, hopes and fears during this strange and unsettling time. This week please welcome Suzie Ankers to The Glorious Outsiders. Suzie is a member of my writing group (Chasing Driftwood Writing Group) and is currently working on her debut novel, a thriller. The stresses and strains of lockdown prompted her to write the following poem.

My Daughter Turns Fifteen

It approached like a dark circling tornado,

Full of the threat of violent destruction and menace,

We watch the news in nervous anticipation whilst around us other deny its very existence,

We become doomsday preppers gathering our medications and food to withdraw from society,

Then we wait and life for a while, continues unabated.

Two weeks later and the landscape of the world has changed,

The once busy shopping centres lie empty as a silent killer stalks their aisles,

Our airports and ports keep inviting further unbidden guests to our homes and families,

The doors to my own business remain resolutely shut but my shame escapes,

There is a huge sorrow and fear in the air as my colleagues prepare the NHS for its onslaught,

They are being sent to war without shields and weapons,

Those low paid workers are now the new heroes of our society brought to its knees.

I watched your silent anguish as everyday you swallowed pills which you knew increased your vulnerability,

Whilst your brother and sister railed against the injustice of their false imprisonment you had no such complaints,

The creases in your forehead an indicator of your climbing anxiety,

The news spews forth the dire nature of the battle we have entered into and the fact that we are unprepared,

As we watch our prime minister, an expectant father, now fighting for his life,

I guess you wondered if this is what Corona had in store for you.

Fortunately, the storm abated,

The blue skies of summer heralded the way of greater freedoms, but we didn’t realise we were in the eye of the storm,

Still you hung back and waited until we could at last change your medication,

Fearful of the very thing that makes us human, social interaction.

Your brother left for university,

He partied his way to newfound freedoms,

I saw you watching and shaking your head and yet there was resigned joy in the fact that he had managed to get some semblance of normality,

Beneath that we held a knotting fear in our stomachs,

Would he pay for wanting to be like everyone else?

What risks would he have to navigate in his future career as a Physiotherapist?

Your sister, the most sociable of her family had missed groups,

As soon as she could she reclaimed the reigns of her social life but guided her horse skilfully around the hurdles of the new rules,

Even she was chastened by the virus for wanting normality,

Her boyfriends brother tested positive for Corona after returning from holiday and we missed out being in contact by a hair’s breadth,

I questioned my boundaries and yet I knew this is not the summer she sought,

She had plans of festivals, illicit alcohol, boys, and music. Parties on the beach.

Instead she got family time and more family time,

Yes, we tried teaching her to drive but how could we replace her peers?

Finally, you return to school and I am so proud,

You are the only child in your class to wear a mask,

I see the worry though in the dark circles around your eyes,

I hear the anger as they confirm cases at school and still walk around the corridors without masks,

I sense the rising frustration that people are not taking things as seriously as you believe they should.

I watch you attend your first interview wearing clothes that make you look like a middle-aged woman,

I realise what a warrior you have become and how you have had to wear an old head on young shoulders,

My heart swells with pride as you patiently explain yet again that you wear a mask to keep vulnerable members of society safe.

The interviewer nods yet I wonder if he really understands

I lie in bed at 3am unable to claim sleep worrying about the future,

That’s when my husband holds me and I hear his heart beating deep inside his chest,

It marks the rhythm of time passing and I think how we have made it this far without arguments and together,

He whispers to me that I am a good mama but not even I can protect my children from the air,

My heart does a somersault and my eyes search the ceiling for answers that just are not there.

Thank you so much to Suzie for sharing her words with us. Suzie’s bio is below.

Suzie joined the creative writing group a year ago. For her the act of writing is akin to the joy of reading and transports her into another world. She has three teenage children and works as a Therapist supporting children with Autism, ADHD and Sensory issues. She lives with her husband and children plus their energetic cocker spaniel named Beau. This piece was inspired by her daughters return to school post lockdown and it proved cathartic to write down all her anxieties.

Guest Post #7 Dreaming Of Another World

Dreaming of Another World is a new feature on my blog where I welcome a fellow writer or blogger on to talk about their hopes for the future, post Covid-19. During lockdown, I wondered whether other creatives felt like me – like another world was possible and could just be glimpsed once we were forced to stay still. I’ve had a great response and each week I will be publishing a post written by a guest – sharing their thoughts, feelings, experiences and hopes during this strange time. How have they coped during lockdown and has it changed their lives in any way or made them yearn for a different kind of world? Today please welcome author Misha Herwin, where she talks about how working on her children’s fantasy series The Adventures of Letty Parker, helped her escape into another world while this one ground to a halt.

Dreaming Another World – my thoughts and feelings re lockdown

Initially it seemed like no big deal. Three weeks, or maybe more, of having to stay at home had a certain appeal. I would miss seeing family and friends, but it wouldn’t be for long and think how much writing I could do. My brain whirled with plans to finish one book, then revisit a series I’d begun but never completed. Added to which there would be the “Dragonfire” books to reissue. I could hardly wait to get started.

Euphoria lasted maybe a week, maybe less. The first blow was not being able to visit Mum on Mothering Sunday. This was followed by a creeping sense of anxiety and unease that grew stronger as time passed, government directives became increasingly confusing and the death toll rose daily. Suddenly everything I had taken for granted was freighted with peril. The days passed in a miasma of getting little done yet feeling exhausted.

What saved my sanity was transporting myself into another world. An alternative time and place, an England where Queen Victoria is still on the throne and Bristol is a city of secrets.

Letty Parker is, at thirteen years old, an enterprising business woman who runs a detective agency, “Letty Parker and Associates; Mysteries solved and the Missing found.” Her associates include, Jebediah Hill the leader of a gang of pickpockets, Mango, Jeb’s sidekick, Hepzibah Harrington, who comes from a very respectable merchant family and Gabriel. Gabriel is half-human, half Nephilim. When Letty was a baby he saved her from drowning and being eaten by Barbary eels and now acts partly as a guardian angel, but one who is never sure of his role in life and is constantly trying to find where he belongs.

The city these disparate characters inhabit is based on a real place, but has many fantasy elements and it is these that transported me from the grim reality of lockdown to a place where I could wander the narrow twisted streets of old Bristol, peep through the window of a dusty apothecary’s shop, where skulls grin from the shelves and drying herbs hang from the ceiling, or wander down to the dockside and watch the sailing ships come in from the Indies with their cargoes of sugar, tobacco and slaves.

(c) Royal West of England Academy; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

For not everything is right with Letty’s world. The evil trade is still practised, two rival gangs rule the streets and the Dark Ones have seized power in the city. The Dark Ones are ancient beings, the Nephilim, who living for centuries view humankind as having as little individual value as ants. Long term they want progress. Gabriel’s Aunt Venetia lights her house with electricity and has installed a telephone. His father the Count believes that science will ultimately prove to be of benefit to mankind and is prepared to go ahead with his plans for the city whatever the cost.

Letty in contrast believes in fairness and friendship. She risks her life to save the street children who were kidnapped by Mother Jenkins and to rescue Hepzibah from the clutches of the Dark Ones.

She is also prepared to face down the mysteries Bear. Half man, half beast, leader of one of the street gangs, he and his followers live in an underground cavern. To reach his lair, Letty has to use the iron cage that descends from the Downs through the cliffs at Hotwells.

Using real locations like the cliff railway, I can see exactly where my characters are, smell the river mud, and hear the gulls wheeling over the masts of the ships docked at tobacco wharf, taste the suppers of steak pie and rumbulin at the Llandogandcrow Inn, where Jeb and Mango meet.

Layers of story overlie reality and when I was free to visit, I would find myself in company with Letty and friends as I walked along the river, or the bus went past the Christmas Steps.

The world expanded with the third book, “Island of Fear” when Letty inadvertently finds herself setting sail for Jamaica. This story was inspired by the time we lived in Kingston at the end of the nineties and the tales told by Mrs Winn an old Maroon story teller. On a grey day I love being back on a hot tropical island, where hummingbirds flit among the bougainvillea, owls call in the rain forest, the sea is blue, the sand white and the nights are dark and mysterious.

I might not have to deal with pirates, cursed jewels, evil plantation managers, duppies and dark magic, like Letty does, but it takes me out of the present situation and reminds me of the time when I was living a life that was like nothing I could have imagined.

Building Letty’s world and inhabiting it has given me an escape route. It’s also been a challenge, as all writing is. There has been the research, although it’s a fantasy world it has to be grounded in time and place, especially as some of the characters actually exsisted. Brunel and his suspension bridge make an appearance as does Sarah Guppy one of my favourite Victorian inventors.

Then there is the editing and the days when the writing isn’t going well and I have to find ways to get back into the flow. This has happened less frequently as the months have gone by and my need to be back in a world where I am more or less in control has grown.

None of us can foresee what is going to happen next and looking back into the past is not always the healthiest option, so this is my way of staying sane.

Thank you so much to Misha joining the blog today and sharing her thoughts on lockdown. If you would like to know more about Misha and her books you can find her author bio and links below!

Misha Herwin was born in England of Polish parents. English was not her first language but once she learned to speak it, she has never stopped. At twelve she wrote and staged her first play in a theatre made from a cardboard box. Since then things have improved and her plays have been both performed in England and Jamaica, where she lived for a while. As Misha M Herwin she has written two novels “Picking up the Pieces” and “House of Shadows”, both published by Penkull Press. “Dragonfire” “Juggler of Shapes” and “Master of Trades” are her fantasy trilogy for kids. “City of Secrets” is her most recent book and is the first in a fantasy adventure series for children. Her stories for adult readers have appeared in a number of anthologies including “A Fairy’s Story,” in “Bitch Lit”, and “The Satan Stones” in “Ancient Wonders,” by Alchemy Press. Her latest “The Loop Line” is in “The Darkest Midnight in December”. Her children are grown up and she lives in Staffordshire England with her husband in a house with a dragon in the garden.

https://mishaherwin.wordpress.com//

@MishaHerwin

The Adventures of Letty Parker are available of Amazon, Apple and other outlets, including bookshops.

City of Secrets: Book One in the series “The Adventures of Letty Parker.” https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=city+of+Secrets+Misha+Herwin&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss

Bridge of Lies: Book Two https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Bridge+of+Lies+Misha+Herwin&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss

Island of Fear: Book Three https://www.amazon.co.uk/Island-Fear-Adventures-Letty-Parker/dp/1916437389/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Island+of+Fear+Misha+Herwin&qid=1595000707&s=books&sr=1-1

Guest Post #2; Dreaming Of Another World

Dreaming of Another World is a brand new feature on my blog, inspired by a piece I wrote a few weeks ago. Following on from my post Dreaming of Another World, I wondered if other creatives felt the same as me, that another world is possible and could just be glimpsed during lockdown. I reached out to other authors, wondering what their reactions to lockdown were in terms of the future. Has it made them want something different? Has it made them change the way they are living, for instance? Do they have daydreams, like me, about a different way of life? Each week I hope to post a response to these musings from guest authors and bloggers. This could be stories, poems, essays or personal pieces. This second piece is from author Lily Hayden. To find out more about Lily click on the link at the end of the piece.

Dreaming of another world- Lily Hayden

Headphones in and eyes down, I spent my commute dreaming of a world where I didn’t race from a school run to jam myself aboard a packed and late train that spilled us out at a hectic station. My head would be full of all the things I would do ‘if I had time’ as I was swept up in a sea of commuters like a dull, drab shoal of fish swimming past the now-familiar rough sleepers and brimming commercial bins, dodging the puddles from cleaners hosing down the pavement outside the strip of bars and restaurants until I reached my office to sit at a desk for nine hours exchanging eye rolls with my colleagues as we counted down the days to the weekend with the same lethargic lack of enthusiasm; “Ugh, Monday!”, “How is it only Tuesday?”, “Happy Hump day.”, “One more day!” and finally “Thank God it’s Friday!”.

My head, like the commuter fish around me, would be full of all the wonderful things I could do if I wasn’t a slave to the rat-race.

“I’d love to go vegan,” I’d lie to myself as I inhaled my fourth coffee before midday. “I just haven’t got the time to meal plan!”

Same for exercising. Not a chance could I fit gym time in amongst juggling work, writing and raising four children and numerous animals.

“Love the concept of zero waste!” I’d shrug as I clicked through an Eco page on Instagram in my lunchbreak. “But who’s got time to go searching for all that? I can barely manage one big shop on the weekend.”

“We should do more with the kids,” I’d say to my husband as we flopped down exhausted on the sofa on a Friday night, feeling the familiar pang of guilt as they all disappeared off to their rooms once the takeaway had been devoured. “If only we had more time!”

And then suddenly we had time.

“This is so strange,” we would repeat to various neighbours that we only ever saw in passing as we all flew from school runs to work on a never-ending hamster-wheel of rush, rush, rush.

We played games in the street at a social distance and went for walks in the woods that I’d never set foot in despite living on their doorstep for thirty-seven years. We baked, and we gardened, and we sat in the sun. We made little schedules for the children, and the big ones helped the little ones with their schoolwork. We skimmed stones in the river and explored the fields and the forests. We went from driving every day to once a week, and I thought about the carbon footprint reduction.

80,000 people commute into Cardiff every day for work with an average commute of 19 miles taking 48 minutes according to various sources. That’s 1.5 million commuter miles on train, bus and car pumping out tens of thousands of tonnes of CO2 every year.

“Did you know Cardiff is the fourth most polluted city in relation to size?”

“If half of those commuters worked from home, imagine the impact to pollution!”

Imagine! The world could start to repair the damage we’d done to it!

We had enough time to watch the news, to really watch it and talk about it, rather than scroll past on our way to work, the gym, drinks, dinner with just an apathetic ‘how awful’… And we had time to take to the streets chanting ‘no justice, no peace’ when we woke to the reality of the cycle of oppression that we had been complicit in. Strangers united to topple statues of terrible men who did terrible things in the name of profit and power.

We clapped for the nurses that work gruelling shifts putting their own lives at risk to care for others, but all they wanted was fair pay and protective equipment to keep them safe. Of all the people in powerful positions, a football player was the one to convince our Prime Minister that while schools stayed closed to the majority, children would go hungry without their free school meal. The staggering reality of poverty in our country felt like a dirty, little secret had been exposed.

But not everyone could stay home and breathe. A hotchpotch of roles were marked as essential alongside the obviously necessary ones as businesses interpreted the loose rules to suit their pockets, and instead of question the necessity we ordered takeaways, and everything from Amazon, we queued to buy paint from B & Q, and the country sold out of hot tubs.

And then we began to grow bored of entertaining ourselves. By nature, humans are sociable creatures; we missed our friends and our family, and worried that the children needed the routine of schools. By the end of June, mixed messages teased of our ‘playgrounds’ re-opening, and we craved our postponed holidays, desperate to jam a facemask on to jet off to foreign shores the minute the planes took off, or gather outside the pub to clutch that first ice-cold pint or queue to fill a basket in Primark. We were chomping at the bit to get back to ‘normal’.

The emotional need for normality was exacerbated by the very real fear that there would be economic repercussions of the wheel not turning and millions of worker bees furloughed; businesses would fold, and jobs would be lost forever. With fear in our hearts, we will jump back on the treadmill as soon as the whistle is blown. It’s likely that we’ll never have this chance to collectively stop again in this lifetime.

Imagine though if that was the last chance that the world was willing to give us.

On Monday I could be back on that train, headphones in and eyes down; the only thing that would have changed would be the facemasks we are wearing, and wouldn’t that be a horrible, horrible waste. Over forty thousand people have died, and tens of thousands are still recovering from a very serious and debilitating illness.

We cannot let this be for nothing.

I know it wasn’t just me on the train dreaming of having the time to be better, having the time to care, to educate myself, to read, to share, to connect, to donate, to question the morality of the society I live in. I don’t want to go back to seeing my own children for just a hectic hour each morning and evening, missing their lives so that I can pay to keep the roof over their head. My husband took over sixty business flights last year, we drove maybe twenty thousand miles of car journeys. I don’t want to contribute to the destruction of our planet anymore. I don’t want to be shocked when I read that over one million children in the UK rely on free school meals or scroll past news of more racial injustice because I’m too exhausted to be angry. I know that it’s not just me on the train dreaming of a slower pace, more time and deeper connections.

I dream of a world where we learn from the lessons we’ve been taught.

Thank you so much to Lily for this wonderful and thought-provoking piece. If you would like to find to find out more about Lily’s writing, please follow the links below! And if you would like to contribute to this feature with a non-fiction or a fictional piece do please get in touch!

Link to author page and bio: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lily-

Hayden/e/B07CR8KF7D%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share